College Series: Advice to incoming Freshmen

The transition from high school to college is undoubtedly the most stressful time in a person’s life. Regardless of the kind of college, whether it be a large, small, private or community college, this is the time where kids are literally kicked out of the nest and forced to figure out why the hell they’re on this Earth in the first place. Here are a few things I learned along the way, and I hope this can help any incoming freshmen with their transition into the college atmosphere.

  1. Naps are a beautiful thing. In high school, my friends and I did not value sleep very much at all, and I know this still holds true with many teens today. A student athlete who was involved in several extra curricular activities, I lived off of four to five hours of sleep a night if I was lucky. Looking back, I have absolutely no clue how I survived. This goes hand in hand with food. You are not you when you are hungry, and you most definitely are not you when you are tired. TRUST me, the stress from school will be extremely taxing on your mind and if you are not well-rested, you will be the most miserable human being. If you’re thinking you are young and have been able to live on no sleep, this will not last in college. If you plan on staying up late to study for an early exam, plan ahead of time to take a nap at some point during the day so you can function the rest of the day and still get other things done for your other classes. They will not slow down, and oftentimes you will find a lot of major assignments will fall around the same dates. This is normal, it sucks, and it will not be easy, so make sure you try to get as close to 8 hours of sleep as you can a night. One thing to keep in mind about last minute exam prep: if you do not get any sleep the night before the test, your mind will not be able to retain any of the information you stayed up studying. It is best to plan ahead of time, get all or most of your studying done early, and save a light review of all the material you already know for the night before so you aren’t walking in looking like you’re casting for a role in the Walking Dead.
  2. No one cares. Don’t worry so much about what you look like, what clothes you are wearing, if you have on a full face of makeup on or if your hair is done. I went from trying to put on my full face everyday to maybe doing it once or twice a week IF I’m feeling fancy. One of the biggest differences between high school and college is that people really do not care so much about materialistic things or looks. They care about the kind of person you are and how you treat others. If you are nice to people, that is what will matter and stand out. Be inclusive, kill people with kindness, and be yourself. Don’t be mistaken, I’m not saying you should be a lazy bum 24/7. I am a firm believer in dressing for success, but all anyone wants you to be is yourself. If being yourself means putting on that full face of makeup with the extra winged liner, or wearing a suit and tie every day (yes, I have seen that), then DO IT! Just don’t feel like you have to look or act a certain way to make friends or have a better college experience. If you spend half the time you normally spend getting ready on studying or being active in a club or non-profit you are passionate about, it will be a much better use of your time and you’ll have a lot more fun.
  3. Alone time is the best time. While going out with friends is nice, don’t ever feel like you need to be with others to go and do things. Don’t be afraid to take a walk by yourself, go to a sporting event, try new food places or just explore by yourself. Put on your headphones and go run around the new campus. This is probably one of the better things I got into the habit of doing my freshman year. If you are shy about being in a new place, spend some time alone and map out routes around campus you can run just to get a feel for the place. Rather than walking around with a map trying to find everything and looking like an intimidated freshman, this will be a much more incognito way of figuring out where your classes are, where the best food spots are and where you can go to just relax or hangout in gap periods of time. Running, biking, jogging or even fast walking are all very popular activities for people to do, and no one will know why you are really doing it in the first place. Especially if you are on a bigger campus, running or going for a jog can help map shortcut routes that will help you get around much more quickly. Spending some time alone will also be really beneficial for your mental health and will help you learn a lot about yourself. One of my favorite things to do is put on my headphones and go to the gym, do light cleaning around the house, take a really long shower or walk to UDF for a scoop of ice cream. Time will fly at school and there will be points where it will all seem like a blur. Make sure you take some time for yourself and shut out the world if you need to and just breathe. Take in the air, take in the moment, be thankful for where you are and what you have and come back to center.
  4. Treat your damn self. This of course may sound particularly basic, but it could not be more true. If you perform well on an exam or even finish all of your homework on time, make sure you reward yourself. I have said this around ten times already, but college is extremely stressful! It is really hard learning how to properly manage your time, balancing out the things you need to do with the things you will want to do. Learning how to live on your own on top of handling a really difficult 18 credit hour course load is rough as hell! One of the first things I learned coming to Ohio State during orientation is that more than 70 percent of college freshman drop out after their first semester. Not just at Ohio State, but at ANY college. So if you feel as if you are falling apart, it’s okay, because I can assure you just about everyone else around you is too. I’m not trying to scare you, just always hope for the best, prepare for the worst and always give 110 percent effort. All work and no play is not fun, so that’s why rewarding yourself is particularly important. Doing well on college assignments and exams are not easy. If you set goals and accomplish them, rewarding this behavior will motivate you to continue these positive habits, which will in turn better increase your chances of performing well in the long run.
  5. Do what makes you happy. Don’t hold yourself back from trying new things you think may be fun or beneficial to you in some way. One of the most beautiful parts of college is having the freedom to completely venture out and do whatever it is your heart desires. Really take advantage of this time to figure out exactly what it is you love to do, don’t question it, and don’t apologize for it. Who knows, you may end up figuring out working as an office assistant that you actually hate working in a hospital and want to change your major to computer science. Looking back on the last few years, if I could change any one thing about my college experience, it would probably be this. I did not set aside enough time to do the things I really loved to do, which was writing, singing and modeling until much later in my college career. Now that I have set aside the time to do more of the hobbies and activities I enjoy, I have been much happier than ever before.
  6. Your mom is always right. Always. Whether it’s from the best laundry detergent to use or how to save money on groceries, your mom will have the answer to just about everything. Don’t be afraid to ask her a million questions and learn as much as you can from her, because she loves you and only wants the best for you. There is no shame in calling home and asking your loved ones for advice or for help on anything you might need, because they’ve all been in your shoes before. If you do not have as strong of a relationship with your parents as you would like, make sure you take the time to start building up these relationships because I can assure you, no one will have your best interests at heart more than the people who brought you into this world. Don’t waste time getting irritated when your mother tells you to do things or nags you to stay on top of assignments or wants to help you organize your class schedule. She is just trying to make sure you are extremely successful in school and what she has to say will most definitely put you on the right track. The sooner you swallow your pride and accept this, the better your life will be.
  7. That being said, call your mom. A lot. Believe it or not, your parents want to talk to you. If you have five minutes between classes, give your mom or dad a quick phone call to ask how they are doing or let them know how bad your lab partner smells. Keep them updated on your life. I promise you, they miss you just as much if not MORE than you miss them, and they are dying to hear all about how school is going. At the end of the day, family really is the most important thing, and you should still make them a priority just like anything else regardless of how far away they may be. This will also help ease a lot of the home sickness that many freshman face when coming to school. It is nothing to be ashamed of. If you miss your parents, call them and tell them, I’m sure they would love to hear from you.
  8. Yes, what you are feeling is normal. On the verge of losing your shit? Yeah, that sounds like the average day for any college student. If you are sitting back and wondering, “wow, is all of this stress and anxiety I feel normal?” The answer is yes, it is. If you find you are struggling to manage stress or deal with the feelings of anxiety or depression, do not worry because you are most definitely not alone, and there are so many people that will help you deal with those feelings. I am being as sincere as I possibly can when I say this, people care about you. A lot more than you think. I promise that in times where the word may feel like it is on the verge of collapsing, there will always be someone there you can reach out to for help and they will pick you up. I can also promise you this, you are doing MUCH better than you think you are. Just the very fact that you are attempting to go to college and get a degree is more than many people can say in the world we live in. Right now it may seem like a cluster fuck, but just continue to push through and trust the process. Things will all work themselves out and you will reach the end of the tunnel, I promise.
  9. God has a plan. I do not mean to sound too preachy of any one particular religion, but remember that God (or whatever it is you choose to believe in), has a plan for you. Your life has a tremendous amount of purpose and value on this Earth, do NOT forget that. This is the one last piece of advice I would give to incoming freshmen, always remember that God has his plan for you. Ninety percent of the time you will not see it, and it will feel as though you are tightrope walking across the grand canyon blindfolded. On the days where I felt I did not have the strength to even get out of bed, and believe me there were many, this is the one thing that kept me going. I reminded myself that God has his plan for me, that my plan is completely different from anyone else’s, and that I need to have faith. Common phrases such as “it’s about the marathon, not the sprint,” or “trust the process,” may seem so basic, but these basic quotes we see all the time could not hold more truth to them. Everything happens for a reason, and you will understand that reason in time. There is beauty in the struggle, so try to focus on that.